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Swift on Ice

Posted February. 03, 2003 22:32,   


“He’s done it!”

After the final race was over, when Lee Gyu-heok (age 25, Chuncheon city hall team) found his name on top of the list, he began waving the Korean national flag on the ice. His first Asian match gold medal is a good news. Better yet his exemption from mandatory military service due to his victory is a greater joy. Because there is no ice sport in the National Military Sport Unit, if he were to draft into military, he would have no choice but to give up his sport.

On February 3rd, the final match for 1500m Speed skating (men) of the 5th Winter sports Asian Match was on in the Nagane Park Ice-rink in Hachinohae city, Japan. Korean representative, Lee began the race as a number 4 racer. He ended the race with 1min. 54sec. 65 record and won the gold medal. Mun Jun (Korea Sport University, 1min. 54sec. 89) and Yeo Sang-yup (Gangwon Sports High, 1min. 55sec. 69) have obtained 2nd and 3rd places respectively. By this, Korea has obtained all three medals of men’s 1500m Speed skating. Choi Jae-bong (Dankook University, 1min 56sec. 22) has also obtained the 4th place. The Korean track record for this event 1min. 45sec. 20 set by Lee himself in Calgary, Canada, two years ago.

Lee is a star, who has set the world record in 1000m event when he was a high school freshman. However in the past two Asian matches he participated, he had failed to win any gold medals.

Today’s match was his last chance to obtain a military exemption due to his age. He even thought of giving up the 1500m race to concentrate on his 1000m race, which is his specialty.

However the weather was good on that day with hardly any wind and he had good feeling. For a moment he worried about a slight slip he had after the finish line. A mere 0.01 sec is matter of victory or defeat in this event. He also had worried when his colleague, Mun-Jun (age 21, Korea Univ.) set the lap time close to his record.

“I’m happy now that I can concentrate on skating till 2006 Torino Winter Olympics. With lighter heart I will take my main 1000m event on 5th and aim for another medal,” says Lee.

His mother, Lee In-suk (President of Healths Society’s Skating Union), who has participate in the match as a Figure Skating referee and his younger brother, Lee Gyu-hyun who participates in the men’s figure skating (Single) were overjoyed by Lee’s victory.

Jong-Koo Yang yjongk@donga.com